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Obama Asks Congress for Sweeping New Gun Laws

President Obama said the laws, including universal background checks and a renewed ban on assault rifles, would lead to 'fewer atrocities like the one that happened in Newtown.'

Flanked by Vice President Joe Biden and a group of children who had written in support, President Barack Obama signed a proposal to Congress Wednesday to strengthen United States gun laws, including enforcing background checks and renewing a ban on military-grade assault rifles.

"If America worked harder to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, there would be fewer atrocities like the one that occurred in Newtown," Obama said.

He listed some specific measures, including a 10-round limit on magazines for firearms, and asked congress to confirm Todd Jones to fill the long-dormant role of chief for the Bureau of Alchol, Tobacco and Firearms -- and briefly mentioned other measures, including helping schools hire more resource offices and making sure mental health professionals have the tools they need.

He suggested Congress should fund research into the link between gun violence and violent video games. But assault rifle bans and universal background checks made up the core of his proposal.

"The type of assault rifle used in [the Aurora movie theater shooting] has one purpose...to pump out as many rounds as possible," he said. "Weapons designed for the theatre of war have no place in a movie theater."

The law already requires gun owners to run background checks, but federal authorities have struggled to enforce that law.

Obama said he believes Americans are ready, and that he has majority support -- including 70 percent of the National Rifle Association, according to one poll -- but that lobbyists and pundits have held laws back.

"There will be lobbyists publicly warning of a tyrannical all-out assault on liberty," he said. "Not because that's true, but because they want to generate fear, revenues or higher ratings for themselves. The only way we'll be able to change is if their audience, their constituents, their membership says this time must be different."

Last month Obama asked Biden to come up with "concrete steps" to prevent mass shootings and the broader epidemic of gun violence. Biden's task force met with some Sandy Hook parents, including those of in the Dec.14 shooting.

Other parents of children lost in the shooting have actively petitioned the White House to act.

"We recognize that no single law or reform will prevent targeted school shootings," said the parents of 6-year-old Noah Pozner in a letter provided to the Hartford Courant. "However, by enacting a wide range of reforms, federal, state and local governments can make our children much safer in schools."

Newtown Police Chief Michael Kehoe, one of the first on the scene of the shooting, also asked the President to consider new legislation -- specifically, limiting access to the kind of heavy weaponry used by the shooter.

"We never like to think we're outgunned in any situation we're dealing with," he said in an interview with NBC News.

Sandy Hook parents and other Newtown community members have asked for changes in attitudes at the community level across the United States. The advocacy group Sandy Hook Promise launched a nationwide campaign Monday to enact "positive change" to prevent future shootings. While they have taken no official position on gun control -- and Sandy Hook Promise representatives were not immediately available for comment on Obama's speech -- members have listed policy change as one possible avenue.

"There are steps government can take. There are laws Congress can make," said co-founder Tom Bittman Monday. "But we have to fundamentally change our approach."

Reaction from CT Officials

Governor Dannel P. Malloy released the following statement:

“In the hours after the worst of our fears were confirmed, in the midst of the grief and sorrow over the loss of 20 innocent children and six dedicated educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School, there was one question on the minds of people across Connecticut and around the nation: How do we make sure this never happens again? 

“Today the President took the critical first step toward answering that question.  The common sense measures he proposed today are something that we should all be able to agree on, and I want to commend him and the Vice President for their work on this issue.

“I have no doubt that, state by state, we will deal with the issue of gun violence.  Over the coming months, I will do everything in my power to make sure that Connecticut is a national leader in preventing gun violence.  We will take steps to make sure that our gun laws are as tight as they are reasonable, that our mental health system is accessible to those that need it, and that our law enforcement personnel have all the tools they need to protect public safety, particularly in our schools.

“But we can’t go it alone.  We need leadership at the federal level, and for the first time in a long time, we have it. 

“We will not be able to stop gun violence completely, but we can make our country and our children safer.  We owe it to them, and to all those lost in Sandy Hook, Aurora and every other city that has lost someone to gun violence, to try.”

U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn) released the following statement:

These are strong recommendations, and Congress should act on them now—before another mass tragedy occurs. If assault weapons and high capacity magazines were not so readily available, I am convinced there would be more little boys and girls alive in Newtown today. If background checks were universal, our city streets would be safer. There are no longer any excuses for inaction. If the horror of Sandy Hook doesn't move Congress to act on common sense gun laws, I have no idea what will. I’m so appreciative of the leadership of President Obama and Vice President Biden on this issue, especially their willingness to involve the Sandy Hook parents and families in this effort. Now, it’s time to get to work.

R. Ludlowe January 16, 2013 at 09:56 PM
well done, Obama.
Alrick H Man IV January 16, 2013 at 10:45 PM
Just gun control is not the answer do we need yet another Sandy hook or Aurora shooting to prove that. I am a gun owner and if this were the answer I would be willing to accept these new gun control measures without question, but these are just empty moves to gain political support and appease Newtown parents and parents across the country. Our politicians are circumventing yet again rather than facing the problem and coming up with some real solutions
Sandra January 16, 2013 at 11:37 PM
Only time will tell if these measures actually prevent another Newtown. CT was 4th with toughest gun laws. Perhaps Eric Holder should be chief for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms because if anyone could keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people it is Holder.
Alrick H Man IV January 17, 2013 at 10:06 PM
Do the politicians and President Obama really think that all the people who suffered this tremendous tragedy at Sandy Hook are so stupid to think that these measures they have passed are really going to work?
Sandra January 17, 2013 at 11:25 PM
Fairfield State Hospital was a psychiatric hospital in Newtown that was closed in 1995. It was known Lanza's mother was trying to commit him and her son was enraged thinking his mother just wanted to send him away. When is the media going to investigate the family? Why he killed his mother, why hadn't he seen his father and brother for years, what drugs were involved, why was he removed from school and was he seen by a psychiatrist recently. So many questions no one is asking in the frenzy of how many rounds should be legal seven or ten. That mental facility might have helped Lanza.
James R M.D. January 17, 2013 at 11:40 PM
Agreed. This is not a gun issue but a mental health matter. Perhaps if Lanza's doctors had spoken up.......
Tucker January 18, 2013 at 12:15 AM
This is BOTH a gun issue and a mental health issue. Not one or the other.
Sandra January 18, 2013 at 01:27 AM
Brilliant
Sandra January 18, 2013 at 02:44 AM
Gun control is a complicated and emotional discussion the adults in this country need to have so I have an issue with Obama and the NRA using children to gain support for their causes. Obama has released you tube videos of children reading letters for gun control and NRA released an ad asking why our children shouldn't have armed protection like Obama's daughters. A Pew poll has shown 64% of Americans favor armed protection in schools by officers not teachers or staff. A child cannot comprehend the intricacies of this discussion and should not be looked to for answers. Ask the children if they would like to see Officer Friendly everyday and they would probably say YES!
JimH January 18, 2013 at 12:30 PM
Well said
tfd January 18, 2013 at 01:19 PM
@Sandra, please say you were being sarcastic about Eric Holder being able to "keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people".
Sandra January 18, 2013 at 01:34 PM
tfd-absolutely! Fast & Furious resulted in distributing 2000 marked guns that were not tracked and ended in the murder of a U.S. border patrol agent. Holder was absolved because he was not aware of what was happening. Even the project leader on Apprentice accepts responsibility when his team fails. He's a disgrace.
Igor January 18, 2013 at 03:30 PM
It's the blame game. Let's blame video, TV, movies, the government, the mother, the school system, the doctor, the guns and the NRA. I think it's time we stop trying to blame someone and time to find solution.
steve January 19, 2013 at 01:18 PM
Is anyone else appalled at the Gaul of a politician using children in this manner. To all of you who are supporting this just think this through. What's going to happen when you are forced to give up something that you feel is a universal right? Even though un-infringed upon gun ownership is one of the top two principals our country was founded upon you still disagree with this particular issue being a right. But what are you going to do when it's something that you hold close to your heart. I ask because I'm about to have my best possible chance of protecting my children taken away from me against my better judgement because some crazy individual committed crimes against humanity and it sucks! To boot, you're flat out being lied to. Not one of the EO signed has anything to do with protecting the public. Less than one thousandth of one percent of the population meets their demise at wrong end of any rifle let alone this evil "assault rifle" that's being demonized. That's right, Less than one thousandth of one percent. There's over 300 Million people in this country and less than 325 people on average are shot by a rifle of any sort. However, with every tragedy that does slip through the cracks, the politicians and media play it over and over again until you feel like it's happening all day long in your own life. It's a fear mongering technique that is manipulating all too many to want to give liberties all too many people died trying to save. So sad.
Sandra January 19, 2013 at 02:48 PM
Igor-YOU just don't get it. All these things need to be addressed and discussed. The "word" blame is incorrect. Sorry even the New York Times said Obama's "solutions" would not have prevented Newtown. A better solution is "see something say something". If there is an individual that is obviously in need of help- alert the people around you. We no longer can say "I never thought he would do something like that" because now there is nothing worse than what happened at Newtown.

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